McDonald's is Planning to Expand Its Custom Build-Your-Burger Option

In Depth

On the heels of plummeting profits, McDonald’s has decided that the best way to beat the fast casual chains so thoroughly kicking their ass lately is to become one, only with less competence. To that end, they give us the Build-Your-Burger option.

It’s no secret that chains like Chipotle and, far more inexplicably, Panera have been kicking McDonald’s ass for months now. Lately, they’ve even been losing out in international markets, where previously their losses were largely domestic. Clearly, they needed to try something to beat the fast casual chains heavily favored by millennials.

To that end, McDonald’s has been running the Build-Your-Burger promotion at a series of test stores in California for a few months now, but the company has just announced plans to expand the option to 2,000 of its 14,000 US locations. Customers are able to select exactly which ingredients they want using a touchscreen — an ingredient list which also includes items such as jalapeños, grilled mushrooms, and spicy mayo, if you have the lack of self-preservation instincts required to trust McDonald’s to prepare any of those things. Burgers ordered this way also take longer to prepare than the regular menu (seven minutes, on average), and cost more (value meals apparently will cost around $8).

No McDonald’s restaurant, meanwhile, is replacing its regular menu with Build-Your Burger — instead, the regular menu and the Build-Your-Burger touchscreens will operate side-by-side. The only country where the program expansion will be universal is apparently Australia, which would seem to indicate the promotion’s product-testing went particularly well there.

Is anyone actually excited about gourmet burgers from McDonald’s? Because I’m pretty sure I can think of tons of different places with comparable prices and far, far better quality than McDonald’s could ever actually produce. McDonald’s raging against the dying of the light is understandable, but their fate is inevitable. While the company will most likely never fully expire, because someone’s always going to want shitty food for the cheapest possible price (for several years of my life, I was that person), they’re going to get eclipsed by places with better quality food for not that much more money. Trying to re-brand themselves with “gourmet” options is as comical as their likewise recent push to talk up how “healthy” their food is.

We also need to talk about the fact that many people are going to point to the touchscreen and immediately say “see?! I told you if employees started demanding a living wage, they’d be replaced with robots!” The gleefully smarmy editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, for example, jumped on board that train a few months back. Because, sure, robots will replace actual workers, just like how supermarkets introduced self-checkout lanes and then cashiers stopped existing. Or, you know, not that — businesses have actually been moving away from self-checkout lately, in large part due to the increased risk of theft.

In point of fact, plutocrat-apologists have been bemoaning the desire for employees to be treated like human beings and warning of the imminent robot takeover since at least 1988. Meanwhile, the number of fast food employees has actually been on an upward trend line for the past two decades. People who can’t shut up about how business owners will have “no choice” but to robotize the food process are just as wrong now as they were then, and most of them are using that argument as a classist dodge to justify why it might be bad to pay fast food workers a living wage.

Image via Voyagerix/Shutterstock.

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